Close to 10% of the U.S. population has some sort of tattoo and about 50% of then want to have laser tattoo removal. With newer laser tattoo removal techniques, side effects can be minimal.
Lasers remove tattoos by breaking up the pigment colors of the tattoo with a high-intensity light beam, and patients with previously treated tattoos may also be candidates for laser therapy.
A tattoo can be removed by a dermatologist or in a cosmetic surgery center. The number of treatments varies from two to four or many more visits and it depends on the age, size and type of tattoo (amateur or professional), the color of the patient's skin and on the depth to which the tattoo pigment extends.
During the procedure, the patient and a physician wear protective eye shields. In some patients, a physician can use a local anesthesia in the form of a topical cream or painkiller injection.
The laser light is activated over the tattoo and patient usually feels like a grease splatter or the snapping of a rubber band against the skin.
After treatment, an ice pack should be immediately applied to soothe the treated area and a patient will be asked to apply a topical antibiotic cream or ointment. Also, a bandage or patch will be used to protect the site and it should likewise be covered with a sun block when out in the sun.
Laser treatment of the tattoo is safe and has much more effectiveness with very little risk of scarring than the previous treatments. Black and blue tattoos respond better to laser treatment than other colors.
The effects of laser removal of the tattoo are minimal but there are some risks of:
- A permanent scar
- Hypopigmentation (the treated skin is paler than surrounding skin)
- Hyperpigmentation (the treated skin is darker than surrounding skin
Most insurance carriers will not cover the process unless it is medically necessary because a tattoo removal is a personal option in most cases and it is considered a cosmetic procedure.